Mozambique: Senior Military Officer Charged With Illegal Logging

Maputo — A senior military officer in the central Mozambican province of Sofala will stand trial in Beira on Thursday, charged with illegal logging, attempted bribery and the prohibited use of firearms.

According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", the officer, Lt-Col Artur Vasco Jambo, of the Trovoada Battalion of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM), was found out when wardens of the Gorongosa National Park came across an illegal work yard in the forestry concession of the company EDN, Ltd, and the people in the yard claimed they were working for Jambo.

The four workers in the yard had a chainsaw, and 20 logs of ironwood (scientific name: combretum imherbe), a species of tree that it is illegal to cut down. The wardens asked the four men for their licence to exploit forestry resources, which they could not present.

At this point they tried to bribe the wardens, offering them 500 meticais (about eight US dollars). The wardens refused the bribe, arrested the four workers and took them to the nearest forestry inspection post.

They then said they were working for Lt-Col Jambo, and to prove it, they rang him up. Talking to one of the wardens, Jambo said he was working for the owner of EDN (Edson, Dylaka and Neurice). But the wardens insisted they wanted to see the licence that authorised the logging. Jambo said he would meet the wardens "to give you money" and hung up.

Jambo did indeed come to the inspection post. He was drunk and he attempted to bribe the wardens with 12,000 meticais (slightly less than 200 dollars). Once again the wardens refused the bribe and demanded to see Jambo's licence.

When the wardens announced that they intended to arrest Jambo, he tried to escape. He drove off in his car, but crashed it into a small bridge. He then tried to open fire on the wardens, but they overpowered and disarmed him.

Jambo was accompanied by Henriques Sande who said he was responsible for coordinating the sale of timber between EDN and Chinese buyers.

Sambo, Sande and the four workers found at the timber yard were all arrested and taken to Gorongosa District Attorney's office, to formalise the detentions. All requested that they be released on bail.

Bail was fixed at 165,000 meticais for Sande and 30,000 meticais for the group of four workers. But Sambo's request for bail was initially rejected. Only several weeks later, on 11 December, was he released against bail of 395,000 meticais.

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